According to a Journal Gazette article, the recycling rate in Fort Wayne is currently 8.5%, down from 11% ten years ago. Only around 30% of people recycle anything. These numbers are embarrassingly low. According to the story, even Bloomington has a recycling rate over 30%, with Valparaiso’s rate even higher. It is odd that the Fort Wayne officials partially attribute Valparaiso’s 50% rate to it being a college town. From what I have seen, college students are extremely unlikely to recycle. Recycling bins on campus tend to be a greenwashing attempt, with their contents emptied into the garbage.
Sources quoted in the story also attribute the city’s low recycling rate to the recycling program not being convenient enough. This is wrong. For most people, the city’s recycling system doesn’t involve any extra work. All it requires is throwing some things into a different bin. It still takes the same time to carry the garbage out, because they have one large garbage bin and two small recycling bins (easily carried at once), instead of two large garbage cans. Fort Wayne’s recycling system is about as easy as it can possibly be.
A better explanation of the lack of recycling in Fort Wayne is the anti-environmentalism that is so common in this area. I am constantly amazed at the number of people here who think recycling and other sustainable activities are un-American. Unfortunately, this means that the normal approaches of limiting the amount of garbage that will be picked up per week (with unlimited recycling pickup), or of charging by volume of garbage, won’t work here. Many Fort Wayne residents would simply start burning their trash or begin (expand!) illegal dumping. This doesn’t really leave any good way of increasing Fort Wayne’s abysmally low recycling rate. Composting yard waste will significantly lower the amount of garbage, but doesn’t deal with the low recycling rate. It will be hard to get Fort Wayne from the awful 8.5% rate to a more reasonable 60+% rate, or the 100% rate that should be the goal.